Author: Marie Pavese
Date of Trip: June 2010
On the spur of the moment my teenage daughter wanted to visit our aging relatives in Italy. We looked into planes, trains, cruise ferry, airlines , a lot of details but well worth it but a lllllloooooong series of flights starting in Arizona! We flew to Frankfurt and found a spacious comfortable lounge which almost made us miss our flight to Venice when the gate changed without us knowing it because we were enjoying the free cappuccino and hot chocolate in the lounge. Venice was a nice flight less than one hour. From the air we could see the jewel box of Venice as we flew over San Marco Basilica and square, the clock tower, the Doges Palace, the grand canal. We landed and had a quick bus ride where we met a nice man who gave us a telephone pre- paid card just for talking with him. We rode a vaporetto on the grand canal to our hotel which was our means of transport on the canal highways during our wonderful 5 day stay which included daily gelato, cafe latte and helpful locals who helped us find gluten free needed foods.
We saw one of our relatives who was an Airline stewardess at the airport at Marco Polo who I last saw when I was a single student studying in Rome and she was an infant. The other cities we visited like the Florence passes and the Roma Pass. We had obtained Venice Passes to include local transit and museum passes as we did in Our hotel was at the Residenza Grimani which was above the canal where gondoliers sang beneath our window and Vivaldi music played from nearby concert halls and churches. We soaked up the sun on Lido beach as we could view the snow on the Alps in the distance. A kind gentleman walked out of his way the entire distance to direct us to a gluten free restaurant called Da Poggi at a small street called Ria Terra de La Madalena . We were very greatful for his generous offer to walk us there since the food was so good and genuinely gluten free so we had no fear of getting sick.
We next took a train ride to Verona, stayed at the Martini hotel from which we walked the whole town seeing Juliet’s balcony where Romeo and Juliet kissed which was re-enacted by Veronese newlyweds in their wedding attire. There is an ancient colosseum in Verona which is an exact match of the one in Rome where an opera of Aida was being performed ,elephants and all. We posed for pictures with the costumes and prompts.
Onto Florence where we stayed at the Boboli hotel by the Boboli gardens which we walked in a day taking local busses and talking with the natives and then seeing Michelangelo’s David, Giotto’s bell tower ,Bruneleschi’s doors ,bought artwork in the square ate gluten free pasta at Ciro & Sons. In the evening we took a short train ride to Pisa where we met more friends and relatives.
We had made a 3D paper model of the leaning tower which we climbed with great anticipation and enjoyment with the assistance of a friend who drove us there and suggested a nice bed and breakfast overlooking the tuscan vineyards in the countryside named Fortezza di Pozzo.
More wonder was in store in Rome. More daily gelato, more romantic history the Coloseum, the Vatican, the Pantheon, Piazza Navonna, The genicolo hill, trevi fountain, neptune fountain, Roman Forum, where we were wined and dined by an old professor friend and more relatives. We felt like celebrities eating al fresco on the fashionable Via Veneto at Café Alex.
One of the highlights was the cruise ferry we took from Civitavechia to Sicily where we stayed for 5 days with more relatives visiting the norman Palazzo Dei Normani in Palermo which was founded by the Phoenicians, well known by the Greeks, became the principal Carthaginian base in Sicily until its capture by the Romans in 254BC.Sellenunte became a repeat hang out for us as we soaked up the sun and sea breezes on the Mediterranean beach by the Greek temple with the same name. We stopped at a thermal spa called Acqua Pia at Montevago near Agrigento with our relatives where we were pampered like royalty.
We sailed off in the sunset from Palermo as we watched the sun setting from the deck of the Zeus Palace cruise ferry on the Grandi Navi Veloce Grimaldi lines back to Civitavechia, Rome where we ate our farewell lunch at Parco Leonardo at La Taverna Del West which ironically had southwest/Mexican food and our farewell dinner at La Stella Di Mare in the town of Fumicino at a quaint see food restaurant feasting on shrimp and proseco before our next day’s flight to Toronto, Canada where our plans were to see more relatives. Niagra Falls was our last wonder of the world before returning back home to Phoenix, Arizona.